Saturday, May 14, 2011

In Praise of Lyndon

Lyndon makes a nice sandwich.

Actually, it's more than that. The guy makes a terrific sandwich. In fact, he doesn't just make it: he invents it, redefines it, creates it, polishes it, reimagines it... in short, if Picasso worked in a deli, he would spend most of time standing around watching Lyndon and thinking, "Well, he's got me beat... maybe I should go take up painting or something."

Yes, we're talking sandwich as in the kind of thing you slap together at home on a Saturday, a way station between the cereal in your past and the veal parmesan in your future. That's the way I viewed it, and indeed had created and consumed many along the way. But then I got lucky. I was at yet another corporate cafeteria, finishing up one project before heading on to the airport for the next. I debated skipping lunch all together and getting something later before I got on the plane. But I had some time to kill, so I decided I might as well get something to eat.

I wandered up in the elevator to the join the rest of the hungry stragglers. It was towards the tail end of the lunch hour, so the crowds were thinning out. A few at the hot station, a few at the salad bar, a few hovering near the remaining slices of pizza. I walked by the sandwich area, seeing signs for usual suspects: turkey, roast beef, tuna salad. Nothing leaped out at me. But then I noticed Lyndon at work.

Working methodically in his chef whites, he had a flour tortilla laid out in front of him. On it was a coarsely chopped grilled chicken breast and some roasted red pepper strips. As I watched, he took some lettuce and a sweet pickle and started dicing them finely, adding some sprinkles of oregano as he went. I looked around for a sign naming the special he was making. Nothing. But what I did see was a woman standing in front of the sandwich case watching him and smiling. I turned to her, as she seemed to be the eventual owner. "That looks great," I remarked. "What is it?" She shook her head: "Don't know. It's for Mark."

Turns out she worked for an executive at the company named Mark. One day he was doing the same walk I was, wandering around trying to decide what to have. Lyndon saw his aimlessness, and offered to make him something special. It was a hit, so Mark came back again. He never asked Lyndon for anything in particular, just to whip up whatever he thought would be good. That was two years ago. And so now, all he has to do is send his assistant up to the cafeteria, tell Lyndon it's "for Mark," and the master begins to create.

At this point Lyndon was adding a mixture of shredded provolone and cheddar cheeses to that day's masterpiece, along with some light BBQ sauce. He slid the whole thing into the pizza oven, then turned back to me. "Any chance I could get the same thing?" I asked. He smiled. "If it helps," I continued, "my name is Marc as well." He laughed and started in on another, interrupting the process to remove the original wrap with the now melted cheese, give it a quick sprinkle of fresh pepper, roll into a tight cylinder and set it between the plates of a hot pannini press.

I went and got a cold drink and came back as he was wrapping the original Mark's creation up and handing it across. I told the assistant to thank her boss for me, then turned back and chatted a few more minutes with Lyndon while he finished its twin. Here was a guy that took obvious pride in his work, and seemed genuinely pleased to be able to bring his own personal spark to what would certainly seem to be a routine task. He wrapped mine to go, said goodbye and turned to start his cleanup now that lunch was over.

But for me it was just beginning. I paid for my creation, and found a seat by the windows. I unrolled the wrapping and took a bite. It was all there: the different flavors, the various textures, a heady aroma of tang and sweet. In short, a masterpiece. I certainly hope that client hires me again. But more important than the work itself will be to make sure I adjust my schedule so my next appointment isn't until later in the day, and I have plenty of time to let Lyndon work his art. Mark, whomever you are, my stomach owes you one.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves a good sandwich. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, the Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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